Robert W. “Brick” Nelson Jr. hails from the Pacific Northwest and Southern California. The oldest of 10, Nelson excelled in athleticism, communicating, intelligence and wit, patience and especially leadership.
He became a Navy Strike Fighter pilot in 1975, earning his “Brick”’ call sign deploying in A-7s, F-4s and FA-18s on USS Ranger, USS Midway, USS Theodore Roosevelt, USS John F. Kennedy, USS Enterprise and USS Harry S. Truman. He was a Training Command instructor in Texas; Carrier Air Wing Five landing signals officer in Japan; and Fleet Replacement Squadron instructor in Florida and Nevada. He commanded Strike Fighter Squadron 105 and Carrier Air Wing Three.
Ashore, he served as Commander, Naval Air Force Atlantic’s FA-18 Program manager, senior fellow for the Strategic Studies Group and deputy director of Chief Naval Operation’s Deep Blue office. Nelson accumulated more than 7,800 flight hours and 1,400 arrested landings. His awards include: Legion of Merit (two awards), Bronze Star, and two individual Air Medals with V for valor. He also is an esteemed member of the Early and Pioneer Naval Aviators Association, or “Golden Eagles.”
Nelson defines the quintessential fighter pilot. He is a gifted thinker, communicator, planner, tactician, leader and warfighting aviator. His extensive tours of duty, experiences and list of exceptional talents, however, fall short of describing him.
Retiring in 2005, Nelson returned to Southern California as the director of Northrop Grumman’s Aerospace Systems Business Development and Strategy and CEO of Tier One Defense and National Security. He additionally spent time as a board member for the San Diego Navy League, Fleet Week San Diego, San Diego Military Advisory Council, Tailhook Association and Tailhook Educational Foundation. At the 2022 Tailhook convention, “Brick” received an emotional 10-minute standing ovation as he was given the Tailhook Lifetime Achievement award. Nelson has three children, Robert Nelson III, Ian Scott Nelson, Caitlin (Nelson) Probert, and grandson Robert Nelson IV. He and his wife reside in Coronado.
Nelson was an unrivaled flight lead and patient wingman. He remains a loyal shipmate, astute mentor, fearless warrior and compassionate problem-solver. Mostly, he is an unwavering friend and a devoted sibling, father and husband. Everyone who knows him respects and loves him. “Brick” is our brother and hero.
VOL. 112, NO. 52 - Dec. 28, 2022